Gladiators ink veteran Cava

DULUTH - The Gwinnett Gladiators added a familiar name to their roster on Wednesday, defenseman Chris Cava.

Cava has played for division rivals Mississippi and Columbia during a seven-year pro career that has taken him from coast to coast. Cava also has played for Toledo, Roanoke, San Diego, Trenton and Phoenix in the ECHL.

Two years ago, he made his first appearance in the American Hockey League, playing two games for Binghamton.

But the bulk of his time has been spent with Mississippi, including 63 regular-season and four playoff games last year. Cava accumulated 33 points and 198 penalty minutes over those 67 games as the Sea Wolves returned from a two-year dormancy following Hurricane Katrina.

It was Cava's intention to start the transition toward coaching this season. He had a verbal agreement to be a player-assistant with a team in the Central Hockey League. But days after coming to informal terms, the team's head coach resigned.

Cava said he then talked to Mississippi coach Steffon Walby about playing another season there.

"We're good friends," Cava said. "But he couldn't have me back this year."

Cava said he's leaving on good terms - though there's a contingent of Sea Wolves fans that weren't happy about Walby's decision.

"It's just the way it worked out," Cava said. "We (Walby and I) are not fighting. I've just got to move on."

He moves on to a team that has never missed the playoffs, but that is changing direction somewhat this season.

Gladiators' head coach Jeff Pyle has put together a roster with more grit and toughness than any he's had in the previous five years.

"I've tried to get him three different times and it just kind of didn't work out," Pyle said. "I've always liked him because he battles every single night."

Cava - a 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman - said he likes the route Pyle is taking for 2008-09.

"I like what Jeff brings to the table," Cava said. "He always has a competitive team. I'm hoping to helping him out on the back end."

Though its defense has been good, offense is where Gwinnett has earned its reputation. It's hard to argue with the overall results - five playoff berths and an appearance in the Kelly Cup finals. But there's also no championship trophy resting on the shelves.

"Grit is good, too," Cava said. "Those are the guys that compete every night.

"I think what (Jeff) is doing is good. We're going to have to hold them to one or two goals a night - and I think the fans are going to enjoy it."

The 27-year-old defenseman is looking forward to playing for the Gladiators and in the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Especially the season opener against Mississippi.

"It's a great atmosphere," Cava said. "I've always loved playing there and I had some of my better games there."

Cava, originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, was in Mississippi on Wednesday, getting ready for the road trip to Gwinnett. He and his wife are planning to make the drive early next week. Training camp opens with player physicals on Oct. 2 and the first on-ice session is Oct. 3.

"(Packing up) was a lot easier when we didn't have all our own stuff," the well-traveled Cava said. "But it's only a six-hour drive. I've done a lot worse."